Wings Etc. can serve up a yummy basket of wings…sometimes

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By: Michael Tomko
miketomko@outlook.com

Michael Tomko

When I moved out to Elkhart in January of 2003, I was totally unfamiliar with the Michiana area. I wanted to find a place to get some good wings. The only BDubs in the area was in downtown South Bend, so I was on the lookout for a wing place closer to where I lived.

One night I was getting a CD player installed in my car at the Granger Best Buy and while engaging in some small talk with the Best Buy guy, I casually asked him where was the best place to get wings around here. He pointed across the plaza and said, “See that sign over there that says Wings…”

I used to be a huge fan of Wings Etc. I would go to the one in Granger and then see a dollar movie at the theater behind it. Later that year, I started bowling in a league at an alley on the south side of South Bend. My team would eat at the second location on Ironwood every week after bowling until it burned down (they have rebuilt it since). 

I’ll always remember that location in which I watched the Steve Bartman Cubs game back in 2003. Well, I didn’t watch the whole game there, I left in about the seventh inning in disgust as the Sox fan in me could not stand watching the Cubs and their fans celebrate their entry into the World Series. I should have known better.

In the last ten years, Wings Etc. has expanded to Elkhart and Goshen, but I’ve never been as happy with the wings since the time when I first moved out here.

The wings here are what I like to call “bite and burn.” They are deep fried without breading and then shaken in a hot sauce. This is the traditional way people think of eating buffalo wings.You bite right into it and taste sauce, skin, and a little bit of chicken. It must also be hot, both in temperature and spice. You are better to not eat these wings without any sauce as you would be much better ordering a regular piece of chicken.

When I first started eating wings here, they used to be huge. In the last 6 or 7 years, the size has gone down a little, but the unique tasty sauce is still the same. I usually get the hot, which is a 3 out of 4 on the heat scale. The wings come on parchment paper in a basket where there is a little pool of sauce that the wings continue bathing in while you eat.

The price is a little high on these things — $9.50 for ten gives a CPW (cost per wing) of 95 cents, but if you come on Mondays you can get them for 50 cents.

You do have to be careful ordering wings at these places now. Since the chain has expanded from 2 to around 30 locations, the quality has diminished a little. This is usually expected since you have different people managing locations and the QC isn’t all controlled by a single owner.

When you get wings, they should take a while to get to you and be so piping hot they smoke. Think hot and crispy, not warm and soggy. Sometimes it’s just from cooking the food in the wrong order and the sauced wings sit under a warmer while they finish cooking a hamburger for someone else at your table.

But, other times they pre-cook the wings earlier and keep them in a warmer until someone orders them. I’ve caught them doing that a couple times when all you order is wings and they come out 5 minutes later lukewarm. I’ve made a habit out of asking them to be cooked fresh when I eat there. Sometimes they overcook them too. You can end up with stiff leathery skin and dried out chicken.

I recommend sticking to the two original Wings Etc. locations if you are going to get wings here. I have never gotten bad wings at those two places. I will say, though, if you are luckily enough to get fresh wings cooked correctly at any of the locations, they will be so good that you will understand how this chain went from 2 to 30 locations in 10 years.

Postscript:
I wrote the above review before I went to the Elkhart location to get some pictures of the wings and the outside of the restaurant. These pictures of the wings are pretty nasty. I wouldn’t have put them up here if I thought it was a one-time thing, but this has been a regular occurrence for me at the Elkhart location.

I’m not sure if they burned them in the fryer or if they were in a warmer for too long and got burnt. In the first picture you can see the wings are a darker color than they should be. The second picture you can start to see where the wings are looking pretty nasty. The last picture is the wing I couldn’t eat and saved for the bartender to see.

I had a pretty bad taste in my mouth in which I then drove to another bar and ordered the hoppiest IPA on tap to get rid of it. I was thinking of creating an alternate review in the future by going to one of the two original locations, but the Elkhart Wings Etc. is still a Wings Etc. If they are willing to put their name on an inferior restaurant, then the review should hold for the whole chain.

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